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Key Cats set for early NAB Cup returns

Jimmy Bartel is set for an early NAB Cup return - ${keywords}
Jimmy Bartel is set for an early NAB Cup return
GEELONG stars Jimmy Bartel and James Kelly are on course to play in the Cats' round two and three NAB Cup matches against Adelaide and North Melbourne, both of which will take place at Simonds Stadium.

Bartel (foot) and Kelly (hips) were both sidelined during the early part of the club's pre-season.

But they have been impressive contributors during the recent competitive training sessions against North Melbourne.

"They're full-on training now and right into the match-play stuff," defender Andrew Mackie told during the club's Australia Post Community Camp in the Murray River town of Cobram.

"They've pretty much done everything during the last two to three weeks.

"Naturally, both are pretty fit anyway, so they kept their fitness up on the cross-trainers until they were right to get out on the ground.

"They're ready to go and, like everyone else, they're looking forward to getting into the games now.

"We've all got to the point where we're ready to play."

Geelong begins its NAB Cup campaign against West Coast and Fremantle at Patersons Stadium on Saturday, February 16, with the club expected to take a young squad to Perth.

"This time of year everyone says the same thing," Mackie said.

"We all want to stay injury free, get the kilometres into our legs get out on the track as much as we can.

"I think we're in pretty good shape, as far as the whole club goes, heading into the NAB Cup.

"If we can play some good footy in the NAB Cup, work on the game-style things we need to work on, then hit the ground running against Hawthorn in round one, it will be big for us.

"We've got a challenging start to the home and away season, but we know that if we perform well early on it will hold us in good stead later in the year."

Mackie is already excited about the prospect of taking on the Hawks on Easter Monday.

"It's great the AFL has recognised that the Hawthorn-Geelong games are really big in the grand scheme of the competition," the three-time premiership player said.

"Everyone likes watching them, everyone likes playing in them, so for us to get the stand-alone game on Easter Monday is a great thing.
"It's doubly important for us because we want to win in round one and we always want to beat Hawthorn, too."

Mackie has been in the thick of the action during Geelong's community camp around the Cobram-Barooga region.

The 28-year-old found himself holding babies and signing plenty of autographs during a visit to Cobram Community House on Tuesday afternoon.

"I suppose one of the good things about having some success is that we tend to get a lot more support when we go to these things than when I first came to the club," he said.

"It's good to rock up to these things and get a bit of a crowd. There were times in the early days when no one really wanted to know us.

"But we have a lot of supporters up this way, so it's good to get out and see how much the club means to everyone."..

Adam McNicol covers Geelong news for Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_AdamMcNicol